Kiribati 36 Green Nomad navigates into the edge of the Amazon Jungle
Leaving Green Nomad alone on a mooring or berth is never something we do easily, with a light heart.
Green Nomad tied to Joceba in the Mahury river
But this time we had a big enough lure: our friends here in French Guyana are expert jungle trekkers, and as there were school vacations they took their son and another friend on an 8 day expedition into the amazon rainforest, and invited us to go.
To get there we would need to move nearly 30 Nautical Miles by dinghy, and it was clear that our 2.8m inflatable, although very good for tender work, would not survive the trip.
Our track through the rivers
We borrowed Joceba’s dinghy, yellow as the mother boat, and packed everything we would need to survive a week or more in the rainforest, where we would sleep in shelters that are built in temporary land concessions that the government of French Guyana gives to the citizens who are willing to build them. They are known as Carbets.
A Carbet, a shelter on the jungle
These shelters are roofs with more or less facilities, ranging from a bare roof to some with kitchen counter tops and sinks, toilets etc.
They are built normally close to the rivers` margins and have docks.
We then waited for a good day and a rising tide to leave the marina in Dégrad de Cannes with 2 other small boats.
Packing to leave on Joceba’s dinghy
Edi packs his canoe
The trip takes 6 hours, and we made a stop to eat and rest from the noise and vibrations of the small outboard engines. Due to the rising tide starting only at 1200, we had a tight schedule to arrive before nightfall.
Edi and Claudia and Lucky, the dog!
Laurent and Angelo, Edi and Claudia`s son and future jungle man!
The trip in itself would already be worth of all the preparation, as the scenery is very beautiful. We start at the quite wide Mahury river, in which the port of Dégrad de Cannes is situated and as we advance the river narrows and the margins get more wooded, and to arrive at the end destination we take 3 river bifurcations, always to the left. With each subsequent bifurcation the river becomes narrower and is sided by more dense forest, until there is barely more than a creek where you have to duck your head under the branches.
30 nautical mile trip with supplies for a week!
On the whole way there are only 2 settlements, a town named Roura, just after a bridge that connects the two margins of the Mahury and a Native American Indian village.
The town of Roura
As we arrived late and could not make the last miles to our final destination in daylight, we at first spent 2 days on a Carbet named Dégrad la Caille, in an absolutely perfect spot, but which was not so comfortable to cook in the constant rainy weather, as it had the fire place separated from the main roof.
Arriving at Dégrad la Caille, at the margins of the River Kounana
When there was a break in the weather and we had explored the surroundings in Dégrad la Caille, we moved to another Carbet named Dégrad Lalanne.
These are privately owned shelters, and if the owners decide to arrive there is nothing else to do but to pack and leave to a vacant Carbet. So every time an outboard engine was heard, there was a great possibility of having to break camp and leave, as there is nothing else or place to go here, so a visit is either the owner of the place, another camper in search of a roof or hunters.
The jungle and river are home to an incredible number of species of land animals, birds and fish, but it must be said that besides insects and frogs, we don’t see them often. They are mostly nocturnal, and as hunting is allowed for a number of species, they are very shy and suspicious of places with people, as they should be.
Is there anybody out there?
We made several trips on foot and by canoe, and in these we managed to see some of them. Edi is a very experienced guide and knows the jungle well. In addition to his business fabricating custom knives he takes groups to the jungle in order to train them.
Edi always had his hunting shotgun with him, as even here one must be aware of personal safety on account of illegal gold mining operations that attract people who would not hesitate to attack unprotected trekkers, and also these jungles are home to some large predators such as the Jaguar.
No matter how many times we heard about the amazon jungle, or saw documentaries, we had no idea of how it would look like. In fact, in the ground the jungle is not so closed, as the tree canopy blocks a lot of the sun rays and the trees do not grow too close together. In only a few places we had to walk where you could not see the ground totally, and in these instances the image of a poisonous snake ready to bite was always in the back of one’s mind. Even in some open paths there are many fallen trees, that you have to step over or duck under, and in these moments snakes are a real danger.
Typical scenes on the ground
We saw only one of those snakes, and it was not in the jungle paths, but on the steps leading to our first Carbet. I spotted it when coming up, and before me several people had gone by and the dog also. It could have been an issue if anyone had stepped on it.
Not easy to spot!
Not seeing the animals directly did not mean we did not see or hear evidence of them. Birds were always singing, some of which we managed to record with our GoPro video camera, and we could see the holes where countless mammals slept during the day.
Not a small tree!
Early and late in the day we heard the cries of Howling Monkeys. We also heard more frightening noises, those of falling trees that became frequent after heavy rains, as the ground grew softer and the winds picked up. One of them fell in the middle of the night some 50 meters away from our Carbet. We soon discovered that this is one of the biggest dangers in the jungle, far exceeding threats by animals.
We had direct views of some large birds, like the Curassow ( Hocco in French Guyana, Mutum in Brazil ), and the most interesting for us was when we spotted two Giant Otters, who came to see what we were doing while we were bailing the hull of a wooden canoe we found deep inside the river.
Here we were visited by 2 Giant Otters, but had no zoom camera at hand!
And on another occasion we took the dinghy and stopped to observe tied to a dry branch, and surely enough, a Sloth started moving in a tree when a rain squall came, forcing him to move to a sheltered branch. Had we not been stopped for 15 minutes and the rain not bothered him, we would never have known that right across the river there was this huge animal. And so we suspect that many times we have been close to big animals without being aware of it.
Waiting still to see wildlife
The Sloth is hard to see. Here is a crop of a much larger picture.
One of our companions, Laurent, went out hunting, and brought back a Curassow in the first trip and a Paca on a second foray. There are hunting restrictions here, and some species can be hunted but not sold. We hope that the current controls are kept so that hunting does not become a sport, but a way of obtaining food only.
Cooking was done in a camp fire, bathing was in the river or with buckets, and in the evenings we had a multilingual happy hour with a nice Ti`Punch, which is lime with white rhum and honey or Molasses.
After a good meal we chatted and some played domino, cards or read with headlamps before retiring to their hammocks.
Laurent and the Ti`Punch
After a week we packed and took the way back, and found Green Nomad safely waiting for us. It is amazing to know that by lowering the mast we could in fact navigate right back to the Carbet where we stayed. Who knows if one day we will not do just that!
Above all it was an experience of beauty. Powerful and simple as only nature can provide! And getting so near this taking your home (boat) with you is one of the great appeals of cruising for us.
Immersed in Green!
To know more about the Kiribati 36, the floating home that is taking us around this beautiful world, click here.